JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's ex-youth leader is scheduled to appear in court to face what news reports say are charges of fraud and money laundering. But Julius Malema's woes may be even more complicated, critics are also calling for him to face charges of inciting violence. Malema's supporters say the charges are a front for a political vendetta against him.
Julius Malema is no stranger to controversy, or for that matter, to legal trouble.
The expelled leader of the African National Congress Youth League has made a career of pushing boundaries with his explosive speeches and militant attitude. That got the 31-year- old politician expelled from the youth leader post and the party for disciplinary reasons earlier this year.
South Africa's tax authority also recently secured a nearly $2 million judgment against him for unpaid taxes. He has also been previously convicted of hate speech.
And this week, something he allegedly did landed him a summons to appear in court in his home province of Limpopo. An arrest warrant was issued against him on Friday.
The problem is, his lawyers say they are not sure what he is accused of this time. His lawyer, Nicqui Galaktiou said in a statement Tuesday that lawyers have not seen the charge sheet or the arrest warrants, so they can't say what the charges are or respond to them.
Galaktiou says Malema will appear in the Polokwane regional court Wednesday.
"As of today's date we have not yet received the warrant of arrest, nor have we been furnished with a copy of the charge sheet," said Galaktiou. "So we are not in a position to comment on what charges he will be facing. As we stated previously, last week, we believe that this case has political motivation and we cannot comment further at this stage until we have seen the charges."
News reports in South Africa say Malema is wanted in court to answer charges of fraud and money laundering along with five co-accused. But court officials have refused to comment on the nature of the charges.
And with Malema, it's complicated and often political. In August, he rose phoenix-like from the ashes of his political career to deliver a series of fiery speeches near the troubled Lonmin platinum mine, where a six-week violent wildcat strike crippled industry and shocked the nation. Malema used his pulpit to call for a "revolution" in the industry and to press for the nationalization of mines. His performance was seen as a strong and direct refutation of South African President Jacob Zuma's leadership and policies.
His critics are calling on him to face charges for inciting the workers.
His supporters have said the recent arrest warrant and court demand are part of a bigger political case against him.
It is hard to know what Malema thinks of his situation. He has been uncharacteristically silent on Twitter for the last three days.
Just days ago, though, he did quote Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, who memorably said "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees."